Saturday, November 28, 2009

Faith and values: Time has passed for condemnation of lesbians, gays

by ROB HUNTER For The Gazette | Posted: Saturday, November 28, 2009 12:15 am

The president recently promised Jordan-crossing, Canaan-entering actions to achieve equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals.

The following day, a friend’s pastor preached that “God could deliver a person as readily from homosexuality as from lying.”

The pastor didn’t mention whether God could deliver people from shrimp-eating and beard-shaving, to name just two other abominations repeatedly condemned in the Biblical Code (i.e., the complete set of all laws and commands in Scripture).

The popular notion that only selected Code requirements are moral and persistent is a denial of Jesus’ declaration that no portion of it would cease to apply “until heaven and earth pass away”..”

It also contradicts the apostles’ insistence that the Code didn’t apply to non-Jews (Acts 15). Many earnest Christians, nevertheless, remain convinced that God demands universal adherence to those parts of the Code their doctrines deem essential.

But what if “heaven and earth” passed away?

Jesus’ statement may provoke our imagination of planet Earth and the sky above, but, in first century Jewish minds, it would have evoked prophetic metaphors for ancient Israel’s nation-state and religion (symbolized by Jerusalem and the Temple). When these structures were annihilated by Rome, the Jews undoubtedly realized their heaven and earth had passed away.

Jesus and Paul both indicated that this passing would signify replacement of the old story of measure-up religion overseen by a distant and severe deity with a new story of heaven on Earth, omnipresent God fully with and in all, Wisdom nurturing hope, faith, love and life.

Code-adherents assume their rules are life-enhancing and disregard observable evidence to the contrary. Wisdom, instead, deliberately forms its counsel on the basis of how hope, faith, love and life are impacted.

For example, since Code-required execution of adulterers obviously diminishes life, Wisdom strives to restrain it.

Wisdom, likewise, observes that condemnation of their sexuality exacts heavy tolls on lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals.

When condemnation-oriented heterosexuals counter that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual sexual unions pose a threat to heterosexual ones, Wisdom notices that no compelling evidence corroborates the claim.

And, when their case reduces to the Code’s demands, Wisdom recalls that the first-century church and God-given reason abandoned that horse long ago.

People are free to bind themselves to any part of the Code they choose.

“The Year of Living Biblically” describes comical accounts of one man’s futile attempts to live in accordance with much of it.

It isn’t amusing, however, that the Code has misdirected far too many Christians into opposing historic freedom and dignity progress, such as abolition of slavery, suffrage, women in the workplace (including pulpits), interracial marriage and minority civil rights.

Sometimes generations must pass away before people can enter the Promised Land. The day of Christianity crossing over its Jordan into widespread acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual sexuality is drawing near.

In that day, such sexuality will be honored no less than heterosexuality, just as men are honored regardless of their beard-shaving practices and women are honored whether or not they eat shrimp.

Hope, faith and love — life itself — will flourish when we follow Wisdom across the river, leaving the wilderness of the Code and its deadening condemnations behind.

Rob Hunter serves on several local and international boards, including Presence International. and The David Group International, and may be reached at

The Faith & Values column appears regularly in the Saturday Life section of The Billings Gazette.

Pastors, ethicists, educators or other experts who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 59101. Or call her at 657-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or e-mail to

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Zaleski: Earth 6,000 years old? Dad would disagree

By: Jack Zaleski, INFORUM

My father was a smart man, not educated in the formal sense, but well-read, observant, curious, analytical. He valued education even though he was unable to pursue a college degree after he returned from World War II.

He would test me. I was a dinosaur nut. By the time I was 8 or 9 I was into everything dinosaur – from library books to plastic models, from museum visits to my own detailed drawings, from sci-fi movies to comics. Loved the stuff. Still do. Still have some of the old books.

Dad encouraged me to delve into the Jurassic and Cretaceous. He praised my sketches, which, I must say after rediscovering them in a dusty box of memorabilia, were good. But then he would say something like: “Dinosaurs? I don’t believe they ever existed. Prove it to me.”

I would take up the challenge by digging into library books and science magazines. I’d present my work to my father, who’d listen patiently as I made the case for dinosaurs. I can’t remember how often we repeated the exercise. In time, I realized it was a kind of academic stunt that was supposed to help me learn how to mine data to make a point. The reward for my sister and me was a trip to the Peabody Museum at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., which had (has) a spectacular collection of dinosaur fossils.

I was reminded of those sessions with my father when I got a bizarre phone call last week. The caller was adamant: “You need to stop printing stories about dinosaurs and fossils. That one about the 200 million-year-old dinosaur find – well – nothing but a sacrilege.”

I rummaged through my back-issue Forums and found the story in Thursday’s edition. It was pretty straight stuff. Scientists in South Africa had discovered a fossil they said was 200 million years old, and likely was a missing link in dinosaurs’ evolutionary chain.

Uh, I don’t understand …, I said to the caller.

“Sacrilege,” he repeated.

It’s just a news story about a scientific find, I said. How is that a sacrilege?

“It’s a hoax,” he said, “because the world is only 6,000 years old, so there can be no 200 million-year-old anything, certainly no dinosaurs. Nothing older than 6,000 years. You can calculate it from the Bible …”

I see, I said. And how do you come to that number?

“You can do it yourself,” he said. “I’ll give you chapter and verse so that …”

Gee, no, no thank you, I said. I’ll stick with the science on this one. Lots of evidence, you know, for a planet being a helluva lot older than 6,000 years …

“Hoax,” he repeated. “It’s all part of God’s plan. A test of faith, you see. But I guess you don’t believe what the Bible says? I shouldn’t be talking to you.”

He hung up.

People can believe what they want, even when overwhelming scientific evidence exposes their beliefs as hooey. The caller? He sounded content with his construct of the cosmos. Good for him. Still, it’s too bad he didn’t know my father or someone like him. Too bad no one planted the seed of curiosity and intellectual vigor that a common tradesman nurtured in me all those years ago. I thank God for that.


marcus l.
Fargo, ND 11/20/2009 2:59 PM

VE Please don't put all the people of ND in the group that actually believes the world is only 6000 years old. Thats very embarrassing. Our "good old fashioned values" have nothing to do with believing in nonsense.

Liz J.
Rochester, MN 11/20/2009 12:23 PM

Cheeze W: Where in the Bible does is say the streets are lined with gold? Are you disagreeing with a Bible verse or a church doctrine? There is a huge difference.

V E.
Fargo, ND 11/19/2009 8:09 PM

I'll just never know how Jack survives out here surrounded by such intellectually inferior, religious nuts. It must be painstaking work to have to write all these editorials mocking the people of North Dakota. Maybe he should move to Minneapolis - where the people are mostly liberal intellectuals like him? The Forum could then hire a Conservative (religious right-wing wacko) that better represents the people of North Dakota's old-fashioned values. Janey Ahlin should go to. She is clearly not in her "element" out here.

V E.
Fargo, ND 11/19/2009 8:01 PM

So then, logically, the overwhelming scientific evidence that a baby is a human child from the moment of conception should be enough to make abortion illegal - as it is murder.

D L.
Fargo, ND 11/17/2009 3:13 PM

Well, gravity is only a theory, too. And, like evolution, gravity doesn't care if you believe in it or don't, it'll keep doing its thing regardless. The biggest difference is that, while we have a very good picture of how evolution works, we can see what gravity does but haven't a clue as to how. The Large Hadron Collider might give us hints about the mechanism of gravity. The flu virus gives a perfect illustration of evolution every year. If you're going to use the Bible as a science text, the world will have to be rearranged to have four corners, conservation of energy will have to be made a sometime thing, and the value of pi will have to be changed to 3, as per I Kings 7:23. Our circles may come out lopsided, but our science will be Biblically pure. Remember when during last year's Republican debates, when the candidates were asked "who believes in evolution?" And nobody dared raise a hand? This would be scary, except for knowing that biological science will continue to produce new and scary miracles all around the world, even if the U.S. decides head back into the middle ages. Evolution is the core principle of modern biology, and with it, the next few decades are going to see truly mind-boggling and possibly terrifying advances in genetics, vat-grown human organs, synthetic organisms, dogs and cats living get the idea. Whether these breakthroughs happen in the U.S. or China or Korea, they will come. The only downside for us the huge economic advantages for those countries that encourage scientific education, as against those who teach that cavemen rode dinosaurs and that Noah just didn't have room on the ark for pterodactyls. It slightly amazes me how people will accept the most esoteric but demonstrably true effects of physical sciences, like relativity and quantum mechanics. But biology? They recoil in horror at the idea that a little ape in Africa carried almost all of the same genes as we do.

Jon L.
Fargo, ND 11/17/2009 8:13 AM

The flood myth clearly predated the Noah myth. The myth of spirit/person who overcame death and lives somewhere else also predates Jesus. All ancient religions had such a spirit/person. So, why have these myths been a part of religious beliefs right up to the present day? I'd offer an amature's explanation. Through evolution, the humans who could hold to some optimistic view were more motivated to hunt for food and thus had higher rates of survival than those who were more discouraged. The myth that someone before us overcame a flood gives us hope. The myth that someone before us overcame death makes us believe we, ourselves, do not have to die. We do not want to hear that these are myths---though they most certainly are.

Report a Violation
claudia h.
11/17/2009 7:31 AM

Science AND the BIBLE .....Genesis 1:1-31 is not discussing the original creation of matter OR of the heavenly bodies. It describes the preparation of the already existing earth for human habitation. This included creation of the basic kinds of vegetation, marine life, flying creatures, land animals, and the first human pair. All of this is said to have been done within a periods of six "days". However, the Hebrew work translated "day" has a variety of meaning,s including á "long time":the time covering an extraordinary event. Such as the term, in Abraham's 'day'. the term used allows for the thought that each 'day'could have been many thousands of years in length. A person who studies the Bible knows that while the Bible does not purport to be a book of science, when it discusses scientific ideas, such as the order of appearance of life on earth, it is accurate. Ask Jehovah's Witnesses

John H.
Fargo, ND 11/16/2009 3:07 PM

"Was you there, Charley?" That was a quote that my dad used a lot. Apparently Charley was a movie actor who made a lot preposterous claims that he could not back up. His sidekick put him down by asking the question "Was you there, Charley?" Personally, I find no conflict between my Catholic Christian religion and evolutionary theory. However I feel there is only one honest answer to questions like: How or when did the universe originate? How or when did animal life originate? and, How or when did human life originate? The only honest answer to these questions is: We don't know. Why? Because, like Charley, we weren't there. None of the various theories about the origins of things, intelligent design included, can be proven one way or the other. Thus to impose any the various evolutionary theories through our public educational system is an establishment of religion, prohibited by the Constitution. If parents try to give their children one set of beliefs (like fundamentalism) it is not the business of public education to contridict those. Thus I believe public education should give the only really honest answer to these questions, that is, we don't know (and we may never know.)

marcus l.
Fargo, ND 11/16/2009 3:00 PM

I find it pretty funny they claim that the flood was global. Did they have contact with people in the western land masses? I'm pretty sure without technology, transportation, and communication, this spring's flood would have looked pretty global.

J G.
Hankinson, ND 11/16/2009 12:56 PM

You will notice, that despite some misinformation, that the Catholic Church rather easily reconciles the Bible and science.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ninety-six organizations demand Congressional action against torture

Net tightens around Bush, Cheney and accomplices

The Indict Bush and Cheney movement is on the move!

Ninety-six organizations and prominent individuals have signed on to a call for Congress to take action against torture. They are demanding that Congressional subcommittees subpoena Bush, Cheney and others so that they must answer for their criminal acts.

A huge thank you to everyone who is helping this movement grow.

The action by the 96 organizations comes only weeks after a large coalition of human rights organizations and prominent lawyers sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to hold firm against pressure from Dick Cheney and others to narrow the scope of a Special Prosecutor investigating Bush-era crimes.

This growing wave of action has been set in motion by the thousands of people who have tirelessly lobbied Congress, collected petitions, and taken to the streets throughout the country. These efforts must lead to real accountability for the top-level officials behind the most egregious violations of civil and human rights of our time. They must lead to indictment.

Cheney is really feeling the pressure! He has tried to escape justice by endless evasions.

A recently released FBI summary of a May 2004 interview shows that Cheney either refused to answer or "could not recall" the facts 72 times. Seventy-two!

Cheney’s severe memory loss is symptomatic of the epidemic of lies and deceit that spread under the former Bush administration. It is high time we stamp out this disease.

Scores are rallying under the flag of justice and accountability raised by our movement. People are marching shoulder to shoulder to bring about real change. We must continue to build on this momentum.

Opinion: U.S. is doing no good in Afghanistan

By Malalai Joya

As an Afghan woman who was elected to Parliament, I am in the United States to ask President Barack Obama to immediately end the occupation of my country.

Eight years ago, women's rights were used as one of the excuses to start this war. But today, Afghanistan is still facing a women's rights catastrophe. Life for most Afghan women resembles a type of hell that is never reflected in the Western mainstream media.

In 2001, the U.S. helped return to power the worst misogynist criminals, such as the Northern Alliance warlords and druglords. These men ought to be considered a photocopy of the Taliban. The only difference is that the Northern Alliance warlords wear suits and ties and cover their faces with the mask of democracy while they occupy government positions. But they are responsible for much of the disaster today in Afghanistan, thanks to the U.S. support they enjoy.

The U.S. and its allies are getting ready to offer power to the medieval Taliban by creating an imaginary category called the "moderate Taliban" and inviting them to join the government. A man who was near the top of the list of most-wanted terrorists eight years ago, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been invited to join the government.

Over the past eight years the U.S. has helped turn my country into the drug capital of the world through its support of drug lords. Today, 93 percent of all opium in the world is produced in Afghanistan. Many members of Parliament and high ranking officials openly benefit from the drug trade. President Karzai's own brother is a well known drug trafficker.

Meanwhile, ordinary Afghans are living in destitution. The latest United Nations Human Development Index ranked Afghanistan 181 out of 182 countries. Eighteen million Afghans live on less than $2 a day. Mothers in many parts of Afghanistan are ready to sell their children because they cannot feed them.

Afghanistan has received $36 billion of aid in the past eight years, and the U.S. alone spends $165 million a day on its war. Yet my country remains in the grip of terrorists and criminals. My people have no interest in the current drama of the presidential election since it will change nothing in Afghanistan. Both Karzai and Dr. Abdullah are hated by Afghans for being U.S. puppets.

The worst casualty of this war is truth. Those who stand up and raise their voice against injustice, insecurity and occupation have their lives threatened and are forced to leave Afghanistan, or simply get killed.

We are sandwiched between three powerful enemies: the occupation forces of the U.S. and NATO, the Taliban and the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai.

Now President Obama is considering increasing troops to Afghanistan and simply extending former President Bush's wrong policies. In fact, the worst massacres since 9/11 were during Obama's tenure. My native province of Farah was bombed by the U.S. this past May. A hundred and fifty people were killed, most of them women and children. On Sept. 9, the U.S. bombed Kunduz Province, killing 200 civilians.

My people are fed up. That is why we want an immediate end to the U.S. occupation.

MALALAI JOYA spoke at San Jose State University Saturday and signed copies of her new political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords, co-written with Derrick O"Keefe. The survivor of four assassination attempts, she was elected to Afghanistan"s parliament in 2005 and kicked out in 2007 by the warlords. She wrote this article for the Mercury News.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How To Demilitarize Your Church

No more turning holidays into military appreciation days. No more special military appreciation days. No more recognizing current members of the military or veterans. No more encouraging current members of the military or veterans to wear their uniforms on the above-mentioned holidays. No more treating military personnel differently from other occupations. No more references to military personnel "serving" in the military. No more unspecific and unspecified prayers for "the troops in harms way." No more military guest speakers. No more justifying service in the military because the Bible mentions soldiers. No more "God Bless Our Troops" or "Pray for Our Troops" or "Thank a Veteran" slogans on church signs, bulletins, and websites. No more equating patriotism with admiration for the military. No more calling soldiers returning from overseas heroes. No more blasphemous nonsense about the troops dying for our freedoms like Christ died for our sins.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Afghanistan: Time to Leave

Patrick Cockburn, our award-winning reporter who has covered the region for more than 30 years, explains why it is best for the world, and Afghanistan, if our troops are brought home

by Patrick Cockburn

Britain should start withdrawing, not reinforcing, its troops in Afghanistan. Sending extra troops is unnecessary and will prove counter-effective. The additional number of British troops is small, but the US is poised to send tens of thousands more soldiers to the country. The nature of the conflict is changing. What should be a war in which the Afghan government fights the Taliban has become one which is being fought primarily by the American and British armies. To more and more Afghans, this looks like imperial occupation.

With regard to disputes in Washington and London about sending more troops, it is seldom mentioned that Afghans are against the deployment. Contrary to Western plans, just 18 per cent of Afghans want more US and Nato/Isaf forces in Afghanistan, according to an opinion poll carried out earlier this year by the BBC, ABC News and ARD of Germany. A much greater number of Afghans - 44 per cent - want a decrease in foreign forces.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Taliban have been able to win some support. The cruelty of their rule before 2001 is becoming a distant memory and they are successfully portraying themselves as the defender of the country against foreign occupation. Matthew P Hoh, the senior American civilian representative in Zabul Province east of Kandahar, resigned last week convinced that the US military should not be in Afghanistan. As a former US marine officer who served in Iraq, he says in his resignation letter that the US has joined in on one side in a 35-year-old civil war between the traditional Pashtun community and its enemies. "The US military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency," he says. "Our backing of the Afghan government in its current form continues to distance the government from the people."

What is true for the Americans in Zabul is true for the British in Helmand. It may seem to military commanders on the ground that, with more troops, they could hold more ground and send out more patrols. Throughout history, generals have believed they are a few thousand troops short of victory. But Afghans, who have long experience of war, think more foreign troops means greater violence, more dead and wounded Afghans. Support for the Taliban is highest in those areas where there have been US or Nato shelling or air strikes inflicting civilian casualties. In other words, the Taliban's best recruiting sergeants are the American and British armies.

The future good of Afghanistan is not the first reason why Britain has an army of 9,000 troops there, according to Gordon Brown. He said on Friday that they are there to protect people walking the streets of Britain: "Our children will learn of the heroism of today's men and women fighting in Afghanistan protecting our nation and the world from the threat of global terrorism." We are fighting there, he adds, so we are safe in our homes and guarded against the atrocities carried out by al-Qa'ida not only in London, but across the world.

The problem with this argument is that al-Qa'ida is based in Pakistan not Afghanistan. There is no particular reason why its leaders should return to Afghanistan since they have a measure of support in the Pakistani intelligence services and among fundamentalist jihadi organisations. If Britain has sent 9,000 troops abroad to fight al-Qa'ida, then they are in the wrong country. Mr Brown slyly tries to evade this point by claiming that "three-quarters of terrorists' plots originate in the Pakistan-Afghan border regions". His sudden geographic imprecision avoids having to admit that they originate in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan. The US military says there only 100 al-Qa'ida militants in the whole of Afghanistan.

In reality, the presence of a large British military force in Afghanistan is making Britain a more dangerous not safer place to live in. Interrogation of would-be suicide bombers captured before they could blow themselves up reveals that their prime motive since 9/11 has been opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In portraying Britain as being at war with al-Qa'ida, Mr Brown, like President Bush and Tony Blair, has walked into the trap laid by al-Qa'ida at the time of 9/11. Its aim was not only to show the US was vulnerable to armed attack, but to provoke retaliation against Muslim countries. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qa'ida's chief strategist, stated soon after 9/11 that the purpose of the provocation was to tempt the US into reprisals and open the way for "clear-cut jihad against the infidels".

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and Britain have faced similar dilemmas. These wars were started by President Bush, with Tony Blair trotting along behind, in the expectation that they would be short and cheap. The initial military assaults were wholly successful, but the American and British armies were then caught up in prolonged, bruising, guerrilla wars. By then, too much prestige was at stake and too much blood had been spilt for a withdrawal. The puniness of the armed insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, in each case probably a few tens of thousands of fighters, makes the humiliation of retreat all the greater.

The main reason for Britain's military commitment in Afghanistan was to maintain its position as America's principal ally in the world. As recently as 2006, this seemed a sensible strategy, but any engagement in Afghanistan, as a brief look at any history of the region will show, is always going to be dangerous. The Taliban had not really been defeated on the battlefield in 2001: its militants had gone back to their villages or taken refuge over the border in Pakistan. It took time for the Pakistan government, on which they were highly reliant, to decide that it was safe to unleash them once more because the US was too bogged down in Iraq to do much about it.

By this time also, the government of President Hamid Karzai, below left, had gone far to discredit itself. It is less of an administration than a racket. Its officials probably make more money out of opium and heroin than the Taliban. Some 12 million Afghans, 42 per cent of the population, live below the poverty line, trying to survive on 45 cents (just over 25p) a day. They are malnourished or starving, and feel little loyalty to a government in which ministers live in their "poppy palaces", built with the profits of the drugs trade, and foreign aid consultants earn $250,000 a year.

"Sadly, the government of Afghanistan has become a byword for corruption," said Mr Brown. "And I am not prepared to put the lives of British men and women in harm's way for a government that does not stand up against corruption." Taken at face value, this means Britain will withdraw its troops since it is a certainty in Afghanistan that a government so viscerally crooked is not going to reform. "Cronies and warlords should have no place in the future of Afghanistan," continued the Prime Minister, but Mr Karzai's election victory was attained by allying himself with the most blood-stained warlords in the country. Presumably, Mr Brown's pledge is no more than rhetoric.

The US and Britain have tumbled into a second war in Afghanistan that they weren't expecting. Justifying their own misjudgements, American and British leaders claim that Afghanistan is a war that has to be fought because it is the epicentre of the war against international terrorism. These threats are all grossly exaggerated. The Afghan Taliban comes from the Pashtun community, which is 42 per cent of the population. The majority of Afghans will always oppose them. Of course, present Afghan or Pakistani leaders have every interest in painting themselves to their foreign backers as the one alternative to the Taliban.

"The Pashtun insurgency," says Mr Hoh, "is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal an external enemies." Britain should not be part of that assault that will not succeed in crushing a regional Pashtun rebellion on behalf a non-Pashtun state. Once this is accepted, then the need for a large combat force in southern Afghanistan disappears. What ultimately happens in Afghanistan should be left to the Afghans.

© 2009 The Independent

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Evil Empire


The US government is now so totally under the thumbs of organized interest groups that “our” government can no longer respond to the concerns of the American people who elect the president and the members of the House and Senate. Voters will vent their frustrations over their impotence on the president, which implies a future of one-term presidents. Soon our presidents will be as ineffective as Roman emperors in the final days of that empire.

Obama is already set on the course to a one-term presidency. He promised change, but has delivered none. His health care bill is held hostage by the private insurance companies seeking greater profits. The most likely outcome will be cuts in Medicare and Medicaid in order to help fund wars that enrich the military/security complex and the many companies created by privatizing services that the military once provided for itself at far lower costs. It would be interesting to know the percentage of the $700+ billion “defense” spending that goes to private companies. In American “capitalism,” an amazing amount of taxpayers’ earnings go to private firms via the government. Yet, Republicans scream about “socializing” health care.

Republicans and Democrats saw opportunities to create new sources of campaign contributions by privatizing as many military functions as possible. There are now a large number of private companies that have never made a dollar in the market, feeding instead at the public trough that drains taxpayers of dollars while loading Americans with debt service obligations.

Obama inherited an excellent opportunity to bring US soldiers home from the Bush regime’s illegal wars of aggression. In its final days, the Bush regime realized that it could “win” in Iraq by putting the Sunni insurgents on the US military payroll. Once Bush had 80,000 insurgents collecting US military pay, violence, although still high, dropped in half. All Obama had to do was to declare victory and bring our boys home, thanking Bush for winning the war. It would have shut up the Republicans.

But this sensible course would have impaired the profits and share prices of those firms that comprise the military/security complex. So instead of doing what Obama said he would do and what the voters elected him to do, Obama restarted the war in Afghanistan and launched a new one in Pakistan. Soon Obama was echoing Bush and Cheney’s threats to attack Iran.

In place of health care for Americans, there will be more profits for private insurance companies.

In place of peace there will be more war.

Voters are already recognizing the writing on the wall and are falling away from Obama and the Democrats. Independents who gave Obama his comfortable victory have now swung against him, recently electing Republican governors in New Jersey and Virginia to succeed Democrats. This is a protest vote, not a confidence vote in Republicans.

Obama’s credibility is shot. And so is Congress’s, assuming it ever had any. The US House of Representatives has just voted to show the entire world that the US House of Representatives is nothing but the servile, venal, puppet of the Israel Lobby. The House of Representatives of the American “superpower” did the bidding of its master, AIPAC, and voted 344 to 36 to condemn the Goldstone Report.

In case you don’t know, the Goldstone Report is the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. The “Gaza Conflict” is the Israeli military attack on the Gaza ghetto, where 1.5 million dispossessed Palestinians, whose lands, villages, and homes were stolen by Israel, are housed. The attack was on civilians and civilian infrastructure. It was without any doubt a war crime under the Nuremberg standard that the US established in order to execute Nazis.

Goldstone is not only a very distinguished Jewish jurist who has given his life to bringing people to accountability for their crimes against humanity, but also a Zionist. However, the Israelis have demonized him as a “self-hating Jew” because he wrote the truth instead of Israeli propaganda.

US Representative Dennis Kucinich, who is now without a doubt a marked man on AIPAC’s political extermination list, asked the House if the members had any realization of the shame that the vote condemning Goldstone would bring on the House and the US government. The entire rest of the world accepts the Goldstone report.

The House answered with its lopsided vote that the rest of the world doesn’t count as it doesn’t give campaign contributions to members of Congress.

This shameful, servile act of “the world’s greatest democracy” occurred the very week that a court in Italy convicted 23 US CIA officers for kidnapping a person in Italy. The CIA agents are now considered “fugitives from justice” in Italy, and indeed they are.

The kidnapped person was renditioned to the American puppet state of Egypt, where the victim was held for years and repeatedly tortured. The case against him was so absurd that even an Egyptian judge ordered his release.

One of the convicted CIA operatives, Sabrina deSousa, an attractive young woman, says that the US broke the law by kidnapping a person and sending him to another country to be tortured in order to manufacture another “terrorist” in order to keep the terrorist hoax going at home. Without the terrorist hoax, America’s wars for special interest reasons would become transparent even to Fox “News” junkies.

Ms. deSousa says that “everything I did was approved back in Washington,” yet the government, which continually berates us to “support the troops,” did nothing to protect her when she carried out the Bush regime’s illegal orders.

Clearly, this means that the crime that Bush, Cheney, the Pentagon, and the CIA ordered is too heinous and beyond the pale to be justified, even by memos from the despicable John Yoo and the Republican Federalist Society.

Ms. deSousa is clearly worried about herself. But where is her concern for the innocent person that she sent into an Egyptian hell to be tortured until death or admission of being a terrorist? The remorse deSousa expresses is only for herself. She did her evil government’s bidding and her evil government that she so faithfully served turned its back on her. She has no remorse for the evil she committed against an innocent person.

Perhaps deSousa and her 22 colleagues grew up on video games. It was great fun to plot to kidnap a real person and fly him on a CIA plane to Egypt. Was it like a fisherman catching a fish or a deer hunter killing a beautiful 8-point buck? Clearly, they got their jollies at the expense of their renditioned victim.

The finding of the Italian court, and keep in mind that Italy is a bought-and-paid-for US puppet state, indicates that even our bought puppets are finding the US too much to stomach.

Moving from the tip of the iceberg down, we have Ambassador Craig Murray, rector of the University of Dundee and until 2004 the UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, which he describes as a Stalinist totalitarian state courted and supported by the Americans.

As ambassador, Murray saw the MI5 intelligence reports from the CIA that described the most horrible torture procedures. “People were raped with broken bottles, children were tortured in front of their parents until they [the parents] signed a confession, people were boiled alive.”

“Intelligence” from these torture sessions was passed on by the CIA to MI5 and to Washington as proof of the vast al Qaeda conspiracy.

Amb. Murray reports that the people delivered by CIA flights to Uzbekistan’s torture prisons “were told to confess to membership in Al Qaeda. They were told to confess they’d been in training camps in Afghanistan. They were told to confess they had met Osama bin Laden in person. And the CIA intelligence constantly echoed these themes.”

“I was absolutely stunned,” says the British ambassador, who thought that he served a moral country that, along with its American ally, had moral integrity. The great Anglo-American bastion of democracy and human rights, the homes of the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, the great moral democracies that defeated Nazism and stood up to Stalin’s gulags, were prepared to commit any crime in order to maximize profits.

Amb. Murray learned too much and was fired when he vomited it all up. He saw the documents that proved that the motivation for US and UK military aggression in Afghanistan had to do with the natural gas deposits in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The Americans wanted a pipeline that bypassed Russia and Iran and went through Afghanistan. To insure this, an invasion was necessary. The idiot American public could be told that the invasion was necessary because of 9/11 and to save them from “terrorism,” and the utter fools would believe the lie.

“If you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, as against other NATO country forces in Afghanistan, you’ll see that undoubtedly the US forces are positioned to guard the pipeline route. It’s what it’s about. It’s about money, its about energy, it’s not about democracy.”

Guess who the consultant was who arranged with then Texas governor George W. Bush the agreements that would give to Enron the rights to Uzbekistan’s and Turkmenistan’s natural gas deposits and to Unocal to develop the trans-Afghanistan pipeline. It was Karzai, the US-imposed “president” of Afghanistan, who has no support in the country except for American bayonets.

Amb. Murray was dismissed from the UK Foreign Service for his revelations. No doubt on orders from Washington to our British puppet.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Such a Waste of Fine Infantry

Posted By Jeff Huber On November 5, 2009

So this platoon comes back to an Afghan village it hasn’t visited in three months. One of the village elders tells the platoon commander, "We ask you not to come here. It is better for us, and better for you." As the platoon leaves the village, the Taliban attack it and a four-hour firefight ensues.

This compelling story, told by a Knight Ridder/Tribune correspondent, perfectly illustrates the futility of the foreign policy course we are pursuing, especially in Afghanistan.

The U.S built a clinic in the village to "demonstrate to Afghans that they have more to gain from the Americans than from the Taliban." Last spring the Taliban blew the clinic up.

The platoon commander takes off his helmet and sunglasses and explains to the village elders that the Taliban have been passing through their village on their way to attack U.S. outposts along the nearby Pech River. "Unless this is stopped, you have to understand that you’ll be getting regular visits from coalition forces," the platoon commander says.

The elders politely tell him to bug off.

The platoon splits into two squads and walks away from the village. The platoon’s Afghan translator asks the journalist if he has a mobile phone. "You should call your loved ones now to say that you care about them," the translator says. "I’m telling you, the walk home from here is not a joke."

The platoon walks about 500 yards out of the village with helicopters patrolling overhead when gunfire sizzles down from the mountainside. Four hours later the fight is over. The platoon thinks they and the helicopters maybe killed five Taliban. There’s no way of knowing how accurate this assessment is. The platoon, thankfully, merely suffers two sprained ankles.

What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.

If the platoon isn’t there, nothing bad happens. If we hadn’t built the clinic, the Taliban wouldn’t have blown it up. If we didn’t have outposts along the Pech River, the Taliban wouldn’t pass through the village to attack them.

Is it any wonder the village elders don’t want the Americans in their village? Is it any wonder Afghans don’t want us in their country?

Our interventionist foreign policy creates many problems and solves few of them. It certainly doesn’t make us more secure. For every Islamo-hooligan we kill or capture we create two or more new ones.

Our policies are strategically foolhardy. They’re tactically imbecilic as well.

A platoon — roughly two-dozen troops — of the best-trained, best-equipped military in history, supported by helicopter gunships, got hung up in a four-hour battle with dudes who probably live in caves. The Americans are running out of ammo. The American helicopters fly in more machine gun bullets and grenades. The Taliban don’t have any helicopters to do that for them, but they don’t run out of ammo. Nearby U.S. bases provide covering artillery fire. The Taliban don’t have any artillery.

"Gradually," the Knight Ridder correspondent says, "the Soldiers made it to safety. The firefight had lasted about four hours. The entire operation, from dawn until the return to base, went on for about seven hours."

This is sorry stuff. This platoon, backed by airpower, didn’t defeat a Taliban ambush. It escaped from it, barely.

What was the point of the platoon’s mission? It went into an Afghan village to act tough and got run out of town by a herd of goat ropers. That sums up our entire Afghanistan experience.

Don’t confuse this firefight with one of those deals where the bad guys are mixed in with the population and Gen. Stan McChrystal’s goofy rules of engagement require our guys to tie both hands behind their backs and box with their chins. This was a straight up fight between our guys and an inferior force, and our guys were lucky to get out of it with mere joint sprains.

It was a case of a tactical situation reflecting the bathos of the strategic mindset. High command sends 20-something-year-old lieutenant and his platoon of teenagers into a village to tell a bunch of old Afghans we’re not happy that the Taliban are passing through their village to attack us.

The platoon leaves town the way it came, through a riverbed surrounded by high ground. The bad guys, who saw them come in, know exactly how to whack them coming out.

Stanley McChrystal wants to put 40,000 or more Americans in this exact same position. As George Patton would say, "Such a waste of fine infantry."

This is a sad patch in American history. We need to get our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon and its rabid Long War followers don’t want that to happen, and I’m losing faith in President Obama’s ability to stand up to them.

From what one reads, Obama is likely to let his generals put more good infantry into bad terrain on a pointless mission.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Scott Ritter on Afghanistan: Don’t Believe the Hype

Is the war in Afghanistan worth the sacrifice of even one American life? Former U.N. weapons inspector and U.S. Marine, Scott Ritter says, “No! And to date no one has articulated anything that remotely resembles a cause worthy of the death of even one American—let alone the hundreds who have already lost their lives.”

“There is no sense of urgency [to go to war in Afghanistan] other than the political element,” he said to us. “Sure there’s urgency if you’re an American politician who has invested political capital into the notion of the urgency of bringing stability to Afghanistan. ... We are allowing the battle in Afghanistan to be defined by a domestic American political imperative. There is no urgency in Afghanistan, there is urgency in Washington, D.C.” Ritter said.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

23 CIA agents convicted of kidnapping, torture trial in Italy

They acted under orders from Bush and Cheney. Today, however, an Italian court convicted 23 American involved in the CIA's kidnap and rendition/torture program.

Around the world, and right here in the United States, outraged people are demanding that the architects of the criminal enterprise – Bush and Cheney – be brought to justice.

Twenty-two of the convicted Americans were immediately sentenced to five years in jail.

The other convicted American, Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady, was given the harshest sentence: eight years in prison. "I am not guilty. I am only responsible for following an order I received from my superiors," Lady was quoted as saying by the newspaper Il Giornale.

As the Associated Press writes, "The trial is the first by any government to scrutinize the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, which human rights advocates charge was the CIA's way to outsource the torture of prisoners to countries where it is practiced." The defendants were tried in abstentia and are considered fugitives.

This is a crucial step on the road to justice. But it must go to those at the top, to the architects of these criminal acts.

It is noteworthy that the defense offered by the attorneys of the convicted was that they were following the orders of the Bush/Cheney White House.

From Italy to Spain and Germany, court proceedings have taken place or are underway against Bush-era crimes.

'We The People' must let the world know that the American people too will not tolerate torture, secret prisons, kidnappings, assassinations and wars of aggression. Unless Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are held accountable before the law it will send a message to the world that future U.S. officials can repeat these dastardly acts with impunity.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Let's Call for an Immediate End to the U.S. Occupation

Those who make the case that withdrawing U.S. troops will unleash another bloody civil war where Afghan women and men will be at the mercy of the Taliban and warlords, are raising the exact same justification made for the war in 2001: that it's our moral duty to protect Afghans from fundamentalist violence. This logic ignores the fact that we have nurtured and created the very fundamentalist violence that targets Afghans as explained above. By empowering war criminals and protecting a corrupt government that has forgiven the crimes of all sides including the Taliban, and that even includes some Taliban leaders, all we have done is complicate a war that was on-going. "A member of RAWA who goes by the pseudonym Zoya in a U.S. speaking tour last month made it clear that it's hard to imagine things getting worse if the U.S. does pull out immediately. The damage isn't being prevented by the United States - it's being carried out by the United States.

Instead of subjecting Afghans to the three oppressive forces of a stronger Taliban, a corrupt and criminal government, and a deadly foreign occupation, the first thing we Americans can control most directly is to end our occupation immediately. This alone won't address the Taliban and Northern Alliance. But it will reduce the oppressive forces at work, and potentially reduce the legitimacy of the warlords and the motives driving the Taliban.

How do we undo the damage we have subjected innocent Afghans to? Afghans themselves have the answers to that. Surveys have shown that a majority of Afghans want a complete disarmament of our warlord allies - essentially that the U.S. needs to take back the guns we put into the hands of the Northern Alliance and their private militias. Surveys have also shown that Afghans want war crimes tribunals to hold all the corrupt and criminal fundamentalists accountable in some sort of court, perhaps even the International Criminal Court (U.S. government officials shouldn't be exempt from this type of accountability either). With weapons, warlords, and U.S. troops gone, real democracy could potentially take root and pro-democracy forces could someday operate freely. Many have also called for a massive Marshall Plan for poverty-stricken Afghanistan, to flood the country with money in the hands of small groups, organizations, and civil society, and eventually to help rebuild the country with a strong, non-drug-based economy. With all the money freed up from military operations that would be fairly feasible.

As for the Taliban, even the U.S. government publicly admits that the Pakistani government's own agencies have long supported the renegade army as a tool for national and regional stability. With the U.S. troops gone, the Taliban's raison d'être inside Afghanistan would be greatly weakened. If the United States were to take the lead in regional talks between Pakistan, India, Iran, Russia, and China to address the Pakistani government's fears of a hostile regime in Afghanistan, it would go a very long way toward undermining the Taliban.

These measures are necessary but may not guarantee stability for Afghanistan. Still the current occupation only guarantees instability, so at the very least the time for a non-military solution is now. In other words, we can choose to repeat a failed experiment with predictably negative results by extending the war in any number of ways. Or we can implement the complex, constructive measures that could potentially help stabilize Afghanistan, undermine the fundamentalist misogynist criminals, help the Afghan people take back their country, and undermine the conditions for violence.

These are complex demands to make of the Obama administration. But it has taken a complex set of destructive American policies and many years to destroy Afghanistan. It will take a similar amount of time and complexity, as well as trial and error, to help rebuild Afghanistan for ordinary Afghans, and by extension make Americans safer. We can make these demands as secondary points in our call for an end to the war. But the primary demand easily fits on a protest placard: "End the U.S. War in Afghanistan NOW." Let's make that call loudly, clearly, and ubiquitously, as soon as possible, so that Obama and Congress can't ignore us any longer.